- Three Gunas
- The Lord permeates everything in the universe.
- Means to go beyond the Gunas
- How to realize the self?
Sri Krishna ended the previous Chapter by describing the supreme yogi as one who, with his inmost self abiding in Him, adores the Lord. We were told about the technique of meditation for obtaining Self-Realization and that a meditator is superior to a Tapasvi or Gnani. It declared that the one who has successfully merged his mind in the nature of Pure Consciousness through single-pointed meditation is the highest and the dearest to The Lord. Arjuna still doubts how a limited and mortal mind and intellect of a finite entity like man could ever understand the limitless Infinite with all its virtues and glory. Sri Krishna therefore clarifies this doubt in this Chapter by describing the nature of the Lord Himself, who is the point of concentration of the yogi’s unwavering devotion. Sri Krishna uses the first person singular pronoun ‘ME’ to mean the supreme Reality or brahman or God. He tells Arjuna that the supreme Godhead has to be realized in both its transcendent and immanent aspects. The Yogi who has reached this summit has nothing more to know. This complete union with the Lord is difficult of attainment. Among many thousands of human beings, very few aspire for this union, and even among those who aspire for it, few ever reach the pinnacle of spiritual realization.
The Lord gives a clear description of the all-pervading static and infinite state of His Being. He then proceeds to explain His manifestations as the universe and the power behind it. He speaks of these manifestations as His lower and higher Prakritis. The lower Prakriti is made up of the five elements, mind, ego and intellect. The higher Prakriti is the life-element which upholds the universe, activates it and causes its appearance and final dissolution. Krishna says that whatever exists is nothing but Himself. He is the cause of the appearance of the universe and all things in it. Everything is strung on Him like clusters of gems on a string. He is the essence, substance and substratum of everything, whether visible or invisible. Although everything is in Him, yet He transcends everything as the actionless Self. Prakriti or nature is made up of the three Gunas or qualities—Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. These three qualities delude the soul and make it forget its true nature, which is one with God. This delusion, termed Maya, can only be removed by the Grace of the Lord Himself. ‘Jnana’ means consummate knowledge of the formless and attributeless aspect of the Lord. ‘Vijnana’ means experiencing that knowledge. Awareness of the Lord comprises of both such knowledge and experience. The present Chapter deals with such Integral Divinity and with practices which lead to its knowledge and the fortunate souls who possess such knowledge. In simple terms the Chapter tells us about ¾ the concept of God or Brahman or Soul ¾ examples of manifestation of God in the universe and ¾ how to perceive God within oneself. It is therefore named as ‘The Yoga of Jnana and Vijnana’
A Yogi’s mind is attached to the Lord alone setting aside all the disciplines and worships the Lord with complete concentration. The Lord alone is the whole basis of the yogi’s being and the goal of his action. Practicing yoga means being united with the Lord in contemplation. Knowing the Lord in full implies knowing all His six attributes viz., infinite greatness, strength, power, grace, knowledge and detachment. As Arjuna has the necessary qualifications, Sri Krishna assures that He will give him a complete or integral knowledge of the Divine, not merely the Pure Self but also its manifestations in the world.
The awareness that the Lord exists and that He is the inmost spirit of all is knowledge. This knowledge can be acquired by study of the scriptures, and reasoning about their contents. But to realize the Lord in oneself and in all other beings and to act according to that realization is experience, vijnana. For example, to know that one can obtain fire from wood is knowledge. But to kindle fire in the wood and feel its heat and light in a dark winter night is experience, Vijnana. In Hinduism knowledge of God is inseparable from experience. Because the Lord is everything, when He is fully known everything else is automatically known. The Lord as Sat-chit-ananda (existence-knowledge-bliss absolute) forms the real essence of all objects. Names and forms are mere illusory superimposition. The question why the Self-Realized masters are so rare and why such a realization is not within the reach of everyone is answered. ‘Knowing Me in essence’ – The Being of the Lord and His diverse manifestations are incomprehensible to the human mind. He is the Impersonal Reality, the Personal God, and many other things besides. Of all living beings on earth, man alone can inquire about his self and its relationship with the Lord. Among innumerable human beings, only a few develop a desire for such an inquiry. Among those who show such desire, only a few know the means of attaining knowledge and strive after it. Among those who strive, only a fortunate few succeed in acquiring the true knowledge of the Lord. Hence knowledge of God is rare on this earth. Thus far Ajuna has been taught the highest form of devotion, which leads to union with God in its static aspect as also with His dynamic Prakriti. Krishna tells him that there are also other forms of devotion which are inferior as they are performed with various motives. The distressed, the seeker of divine wisdom, and he who desires wealth, worship Him, as also the wise. Of these the Lord deems the wise as dearest to Him. Such a devotee loves the Lord for the sake of pure love alone. Whatever form the devotee worships, the ultimate goal is the Lord Himself. The Lord accepts such worship, knowing that it is directed to Him only.
He says that low men because of their delusion and indulgence in evil actions, follow the path of the devil (Asura) and get themselves deprived of their discrimination. The difference between man and animal is his rational intellect by which he can distinguish between the good and the evil, the high and the low, the moral and the immoral etc. This rational discriminative capacity alone helps the man to cast off his imperfections and become aware of his essential nature of Absolute Divinity. The evil doers cannot attain to the Supreme, for their mind and will are not instruments of the Spirit but of the ego. They do not seek to master their crude impulses but are a prey to the Rajas and Tamas in them. If they control their crude tendencies by the Sattva in them, their action becomes orderly and enlightened and ceases to be the outcome of passion and ignorance. To go beyond the three gunas, first, we have to submit ourselves to the rule of Sattva. We have to become ethical, before we can become spiritual. At the spiritual level, we cross the dualities and act in the light and strength of the Spirit in us. We do not act then to gain any personal interest or avoid personal suffering but only as instrument of the Divine.
In all beings the three Gunas – Sattva (pure attitude), Rajas (active attitude) and Tamas (inert attitude) are found in varying degrees. The blending of these three qualities of nature in the thought mechanism of man constitutes ignorance or Avidya due to which the whole world gets deluded. Because of this total ignorance or Maya the world fails to recognize His presence – the Eternal, the Imperishable, the Spirit as distinct from the gross Matter. The ignorant believe that the world and the visible objects alone are real and do not seek The Lord at all. They follow the ways of demons and suffer through the series of births and deaths. It is very difficult to remove ignorance and get enlightened. But inspite of this difficulty those who take refuge in Him can overcome the predicament.